Posts tagged guest
Same hero, new jokes: why we need Dave Chappelle during troubled times

Dave Chappelle might actually be a magician, because “He rapes, but he saves,” should not be funny.

Yet there it is: the full crowd barrel laugh. And there it is: my own laughter, at home, watching on Netflix.

What are we really laughing at? On its face, that line is a brutal, violent sentiment. And yes, if you haven’t seen “The Age of Spin,” the first of Chappelle’s four — FOUR??!! — standup specials on Netflix in 2017, I recommend that you stop reading this now, watch the special, and then return, because that line has to be seen to be believed. It’s the comedy equivalent of a David Blaine illusion, where you stare at his mouth the entire time yet he keeps on barfing up frogs.

That line is one of several times where Chappelle took heat in 2017 for his standup material. It came from both political parties, both genders, all orientations, and all races. Most famously, there was blowback for his jokes about the LGBT community, specifically transgender people, in the first two specials of 2017 — “The Age of Spin” and “Deep In the Heart of Texas” — and then in “Equanimity,” which was released New Years Eve (along with “The Bird Revelation”) and addressed the backlash for the trans jokes.

His routines about Bill Cosby, Emmett Till, Louis CK, Harvey Weinstein, and poor, white Trump voters also drew heat from various directions and various groups, including from ones that are politically opposed to each other.

My own take? Some of his LGBT routines in the first two 2017 specials were poorly conceived, because they included instances of the words “fag” and “dyke” in the same way that Chappelle uses the n-word or “bitch.” He wasn’t in character saying that particular f- or d-word. He was literally just saying them to refer to gays and lesbians. Not funny.

And then there were his routines about his dislike for “poor whites.” Unlike other groups he jokes about — and Dave jokes about EVERYONE — the odds that people who consider themselves “poor whites” would attend his show, watch his special, or in any way feel like they are inside the tent are unlikely. That was the unusual case where I agreed with the logic of his point but opposed the execution of that portion of the joke.

But artists take chances, and sometimes they make mistakes. I’ve seen it before with many groups at the receiving end, my own included, and I tend to chalk it up to a misfire within good art and move on.

Which is not to say that I subscribe to the notion that “You just don’t have a sense of humor,” or “Man, why is everyone so sensitive?” — I don’t. If a work of art contains content that you find offensive — or, more specifically, threatening — then you’re going to have the reaction that you naturally have, and that’s cool.

The reason I am willing to forgive Chappelle for the gay jokes that I don’t like is the same reason I don’t get too upset with, say, Clipse for a lyric about Jews on “Wamp Wamp,” in which they say that while cooking cocaine, “it cools to a tight wad, the Pyrex is Jewish.”

I love Clipse! So I shook that one off, and did so even when seeing them live at the Metro in 2007, and being just a tad freaked when I heard a room full of people rap that line in exuberance. It was a much different experience than hearing it on the CD, but that’s the nature of live art, and I moved past it.

Much worse than that is Quentin Tarantino dropping the N in “Pulp Fiction” four times in 30 seconds to Samuel L. Jackson, which to this day makes me grimace for two reasons, one being that it’s way more offensive than it is clever, and the other that I just don’t believe that Jules Winnfield would be so nonchalant about that language, even taking the circumstances of the scene into account.

What I could not abide from Tarantino, ultimately, was much of the content of “Django Unchained.” I walked out of the theaters the first time I saw that and did not watch to completion until a few months later. And yet, most of my black friends LOVE Django and thought Tarantino was on point with the script — listen to Dick Gregory for a beautiful summation — whereas I’ve gone from hatred of the film to mere distaste.

Unlike Tarantino, Chappelle writes his mea culpa into his material. He’s done it a few times. In a set at the Laugh Factory in 2010, while talking about Michael Richards’ racist meltdown also at the Laugh Factory, Chappelle said his reaction to Richards taught him that he was “20% black, 80% comedian.”

In “The Bird Revelation,” he challenges his fellow comics in the room to not be afraid to speak “recklessly.” In “Equanimity,” when he discusses the backlash to his transgender jokes, particularly from a trans fan who wrote him a letter to say that his jokes left her “devastated,” he explains that, “As a policy, you gotta understand, I never feel bad about anything I say up here.”

But perhaps his best explanation about the risk in art comes in “The Age of Spin,” when he describes his approach to comedy as analogous to motorcycle stunts.

“I’m like Evel Knievel,” he says. “I get paid for the attempt.”

He calls this idea something to the effect of “thrill of being wrong.” The idea, I think, contains two parts. The first is that real art, in any form, is inherently risky, and people have to be willing to give artists the benefit of the doubt based on their history, their intent, their content, their execution, and the possible payoff of their work. The payoff in that deal is that the artist will take us to a special place we cannot go on our own.

The second part of the “thrill of being wrong” is that artistic expression adheres to an art form, and the art form of standup comedy stipulates that you try to make people laugh, and the only true judgment on your attempt is whether or not they did, and that as comedy fans, we can’t hold statements made in standup routines to the same standard of truth and taste as we would a statement made in normal conversation.

Take Dave’s Mac Mittens bit, for instance, also from “Equanimity.” For me, this had the opposite effect of the “poor whites” bit. In this case, Dave said he disagreed with some of the reasons the media bashes Trump, and he used as an example Jared Kushner’s inclusion as a senior advisor.

As a Washington outsider, Dave says, Trump would want family members among his advisers because they would make him feel comfortable. The point is way off — people aren’t mad about Kushner’s inclusion because he’s an “outsider,” but because he was given loads of responsibilities for which he was not qualified, along with security clearances inappropriate for his needs.

But as a segue to an extended bit about Chappelle’s friend “Mac Mittens” who joins him at meetings, it was hilarious. The joke works, even if the real world logic that sets it up fails.

And that, in a way, brings us back to “He rapes, but he saves.”

Netflix

Netflix

When Dave delivers that line as the final knockout punch of “The Age of Spin,” it comes on the heels of an extended, rather serious segment on Bill Cosby’s legacy. “He rapes, but he saves” is a line that he sets up earlier in the show in a much sillier segment. That juxtaposition is part of the audacity that makes us laugh.

Because here’s the thing: as audience members, when we hear that line, we are not laughing at the idea of Bill Cosby raping, nor are we absolving Cosby of the alleged rapes because of the “he saves” portion of the line, which refers to Cosby’s decades of charity, education, and community uplift.

Our laugh is the result of Dave’s Evel Knievel moment. It’s the “attempt,” as it were. It’s the audacity to take such a sad, serious subject like Cosby’s alleged rapes and everything surrounding his probable guilt and attempt to turn it into an opportunity to feel just a bit better. And it works because the object of the joke is not the victims and not even Cosby, but rather our own conflicted human emotions about a real life hero who likely committed heinous crimes.

The pain Cosby’s probable victims feel can never be erased. The pain that people feel for many reasons when they learn about Cosby’s acts — that pain is real too. And Dave, through the boldness and courage of his comedy, is offering relief. He is giving people a safe space to laugh, and in doing so inviting them to bask in the magnitude of the attempt. The barrel laugh he gets on the line is the audience’s realization mixed with gratitude: we didn’t know we were going to see the attempt. And we didn’t know he would land it.

Jack M Silverstein is a sports historian covering the Bears for Windy City Gridiron. He is the author of “Our President” about Barack Obama supporters and “How The GOAT was Built: 6 Life Lessons From the 1996 Chicago Bulls.” Say hey at @readjack.

Barbershop Lies Vol. 1

The barbershop is really a staple in our community and culture; so much so an icon of both (Ice Cube), has created a successful film franchise based on it. Shit, my favorite movie is Coming to America and what was a central theme? The barbershop! And what was Mr. Clarence infamous for? Lying like shit! He told tall tales about meeting & getting punched in the chest by Martin Luther the King. Also telling bullshit about Joe Louis’ age, first he was 75 years old then he was 76 years old and how Frank Sinatra told him Joe happened to be 137 years old. That was art, imitating life and we were entertained but think about it, your barbershop tells you lies like a motherfucker and some of you are probably responsible.

Let me paint a picture; it’s Saturday afternoon, you have plans on getting “lit” (that’s how the kids say it right?) and you hit the barbershop to see that it’s full and you have to wait 3 heads. [Side note: You hold ZERO weight if you walk in the barbershop and aren’t next.]  Now all these people in the shop smelling like Friday night’s mistakes and liquor while a kid uses someone’s leg at a ramp for their toy cars. You see the barber in the 2nd chair never has any customers and you’re avoiding eye contact with him because he’ll strike up a conversation.

Then it happens, a woman walks by the shop and doesn’t even so much as glance in but one of the brothers wearing his Rocawear shorts from 2004 with the holes in it swears she didn’t look because she knew he was in the shop. Now here comes the elaborate lie about how she’s “crazy” and did that just so he could text her because he stood her up the night before; meanwhile he looks like a State Property movie extra who never gave back his wardrobe.

Since nobody respects you & you done waited for your barber to cut 3, he’s worked up quite the appetite and his jerk chicken with cabbage has arrived, so now he’s going to make you watch him enjoy his lunch. Then he starts asking you about your job as if he cares; he’s lying because he’s just stalling and buying time. He gets a phone call after he finishes and goes outside to take it while smoking a cigarette but here’s the next lie; it’s you on Twitter typing sideways with your limbs telling the ladies what you don’t approve about them.

Your barber finally gets done from his break and you get in the chair; nobody respects you because now he keeps pausing to tell everyone about the phone call he was just on and a conversation about $200 dates and child support breaks out in which everyone tells the lies about how the court is on their ass for $30.73 a week. Being the MC Tweet Tweet you are, you have to join in and show an avi of a woman you never met that you saved in your phone without permission and tell them how she be stressing you out while you in the studio trying to get your music off. I know you type of niggas; I hate all of y’all.

 I know you got that heat in your chest right now MC Tweet Tweet but don’t worry, this is therapy for you; you’ll get over it.

Why the Bulls won the Jimmy Butler trade
Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Let’s take a trip back to NBA Draft night, June 22nd, 2017.

The night we saw Lonzo Ball become a Laker just as the prophet LaVar Ball predicted. We saw the Celtics and Sixers swap first round picks just days prior to ensure both teams “get their guy”. We also saw the end of an era in Chicago with Jimmy Butler being dealt to the Timberwolves and reunited with his beloved coach Tom Thibodeau.

Let’s talk about why the Bulls WON this trade.

 

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/Chicago Tribune

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/Chicago Tribune

There comes a point where certain teams have a guy headed towards superstar level while the team is headed nowhere in a hurry - nowhere being a perennial playoff team that doesn’t necessarily belong there. Good enough to make it because their best player could carry the load, sure, but bad enough to be first round exits because they aren’t equipped for the marathon.

Those same wins that land bad teams in the playoffs as a 7th or 8th seed ultimately doom them on draft night. They aren’t picking high enough to draft the ‘cream of the crop’, so they’re forced to roll the dice on a prospect. Obviously there are no sure things in sports no matter where you’re drafted, but you need the best available player when you’re thin on talent. Now if you’re a young team like the Sixers or even the Bucks, making the playoffs with no real chance at the title at least gives you hope for what the future holds. When you’re an established team like the Bulls whose playoff seeding is more of a fall from grace than a stepping stone, it’s time to make changes.

In a vacuum, the package of Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and the 7th overall pick, which would become Lauri Bir-..I mean Markkanen, seems a bit low, right? 

Not if you think about this in totality. 

Usually once a superstar-level player reaches the last two years of his deal, the vultures start to circle. Other teams know this is the shit or get off the pot moment for your franchise and you’ll either accept whatever they offer or they’ll wait you out. In essence, whatever they offer will be too much on their end.

You’ll NEVER receive equal value for an established superstar. Think about it, a sure thing will always be safer than a ‘maybe’. It’s a results based, hindsight is 20/20, blah blah scenario every time. Ask the Hornets about Vlade and Kobe. However, if the pieces you receive are what’s best for YOUR future, then you’ve won. Think Oladipo/Sabonis for Paul George.

You hold on to that superstar player to avoid “looking” like you got fleeced, then lose him in free agency and remove all doubt that the fleecing occurred.

This deal was on the table a year prior, but the Bulls were still determined to wait and see if the Jimmy Butler experience was worth it all. To see if he would regress, or grow to be the player you could build around or trade while his stock was high to get more pieces. The latter occurred and in a surprising turn of events.....GarPax actually made a good decision. I still can’t believe I typed that...and it’s true.

Credit: Chicago Bulls

Credit: Chicago Bulls

Kris Dunn, a former top 5 pick in the draft, was never given a fair shake in Minnesota. We all know Thibs doesn’t play rookies, which isn’t a foreign concept by established coaches. When you’re hired to produce right away, it doesn’t behoove you to bet on potential. So, on the surface it looks like “Dunn couldn’t beat out Rubio for the starting job” when in reality it was never his job to actually ‘win’ because he was still learning.

In reality he’s a much better passer, scorer, and all around player than he was given credit for. He’s averaging 13.4 points per game and 6 assists in just 31 games with the Chicago Bulls, up over his 3.8 points and 2.4 assists in 78 games with Minnesota.

Zach LaVine, a former NBA dunk contest champion, is an incredible athlete. Before suffering a torn ACL in February of 2017, he showed tremendous upside and that he wasn’t just a dunker. He’s a career 37.9% shooter from 3 point range and averages 13.7 points per game. Obviously time will tell what kind of player he’ll be once he returns, but by all accounts he’s rehabbing great and should be back to normal soon.

Lauri Markkanen, who I’ve named Lauri Bird, is the most interesting player of the bunch. There was similar reaction to the Bulls drafting Lauri with the 7th pick as there was when the Knicks chose Kristaps Porzingis in 2015: a sea of boos and “who the fuck is this ass hole?” like Samuel L. Jackson in McDowell’s. Whenever you don’t take the flashy, prom king, golden boy of the moment on everyone’s radar you’re going to be met with criticism. Understandably so, because for every Dirk there’s a Darko.

Lauri is special though. He shot the lights out at Arizona and was called the best shooting 7-footer college basketball had ever seen, averaging 15.6PPG and 7.2RPG all while rocking the number 10 like Mike Bibby. In his rookie season so far he’s opened a lot of eyes and gained respect from those who once doubted. Did I mention he’s ONLY 20? (Jay-Z voice at Hot97 with Young Chris). He’s averaging 14.6PPG and 7.4RPG on the pro level, and is showing tremendous potential to be a franchise player.

I had to talk a few fellow Bulls fans off the ledge when this trade went down, and now they’re all on the edge of their seats for this team. The future is bright and we have something that not even GarPax could ru...let me stop there before they ask me to hold their beer and show me.

Bottom line is, I knew we won this trade the night it happened and now the world sees it. Now if they could only stop disrupting this tank so we can draft even higher and secure the Bagley, I’d be even happier...but that’s another story.